Generations of children have been enchanted by Cicely Mary Barker’s 1920s Flower Fairies books and artwork., Now, in 2017, a fan has created a child-friendly 23-piece collection of eight Flower Fairy figurines and accessories such as stepping stones and fairy doors for use in miniature gardens.
The figurines–which are under four inches–encourage children to garden and can be used both indoors and outdoors. Barker fans will recognize fairies like Buttercup, Daisy, Apple Blossom, Rose, Scilla, Strawberry, Mulberry and Lavender, each wearing outfits made from the leaves and flowers of his or her special plant as in Barker’s charming illustrations.
Toy designer Joyce Sprau, who works for a company called Ultimate Source based in suburban Chicago, is the mastermind behind the series. With 20 years in the toy industry, Joyce became interested in creating miniature gardening products for children after seeing the trend in the adult market but originally thought the products would be too seasonal. She changed her mind after seeing the adult products displayed in lawn and garden stores all year long.
“I knew that if we could design a durable, safe and affordable line for kids, it could be a year-round offering,” she recalled. “Next, I needed a story. Kids like to relate to a character name and stories that bring their toys to life.”
Joyce originally found the Flower Fairies books at one of her favorite nurseries in the Indianapolis area. “As soon as I saw the books and fairies for each season, I knew this was the perfect fit for my idea,” she said. “We negotiated the licensing agreement with Penguin and the Cicely Mary Barker estate, designed concepts, and launched a full line of Flower Fairies Secret Garden products two years later.”
With multiple titles in the series, which was first published in 1923, Barker’s books feature scores of fairy stories supported by 170 delicate and botanically accurate illustrations. They have been translated into over 20 languages and have sold more than seven million copies in the last 10 years alone.
“I have now met many people who grew up reading the Cicely Mary Barker books and they love the many intricate details in the stories as well as the vintage style of the illustrations,” Joyce declared.
That vintage style is retained in the figurines in the Flower Fairies Secret Garden collection, which are directly modeled after Barker’s artwork.
“We wanted to be as true as possible to the artwork and details of each fairy,” Joyce explained. “I was lucky to be invited to see the original artwork in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. There are over 150 different Flower Fairies that Barker created using real children as inspirations. Once we selected the fairies for our first collection, we added accessories that were inspired by the tea parties and other details in the stories themselves, and created items like the fairy bridge and pathways to let children expand and connect their scenes. . It’s all about fantasy and imagination and fun.”
Underneath the all-fun veneer, the Flower Fairies also have the potential to get children interested in gardening and nature. In fact, Joyce is hopeful that the series will one day be used as a springboard to teaching children about plants and other earth science subjects. She also sees an opportunity for encouraging reading.
“We hope that the line will inspire kids to read the Flower Fairy books and perhaps nurture a broader interest in reading by showing how enjoyable the experience can be,” Joyce said. “We’re hoping to do our part by merchandising our products alongside the Flower Fairy books themselves.”
Consumers have responded enthusiastically to the line, with favorite fairies including Rose and Baby Apple Blossom (“She reminds parents and grandparents about their children and grandchildren”). Joyce herself favors Baby Apple Blossom “because she can hang anywhere in your garden” and Daisy “because she was the first design in the series.”
Joyce and her team are already thinking about their next releases and developing a new collection for Spring 2018 launch. They are also working on a related product/brand called “CreataDream” which focuses on bringing more miniature garden items for kids to embrace creative play and imagination.